“There’s something I have to tell you,” she said.
Junior high – lunch period, hiding in the school library. Surrounded by the smell of aging pages and the warmth of the heating system as it breathed its hot breath and kept the gripping frost at bay. I hid there because it was a reprieve from forced and miserable conversation, from anxiety with tearing teeth and horns, from the noise and haste. A reprieve – except when she was there.
“I wasn’t sure who else to tell,” she said.
Her name was B., B. for broken, B. for bruised. Long dirty hair, ripped clothes in black on black on black. Wide eyes that would have been beautiful but for her cracked and empty thousand-yard stare. I loved to read, especially horror; she loved to watch movies, especially horror, most especially the gut-churning gorefests I wouldn’t grow to stomach, let alone love, for another couple of years.
“It’s a secret,” she said, her voice pitched just above a whisper. “You can’t tell anyone.”
I didn’t want to be B.‘s friend. I certainly didn’t want to be her confidante. In those days, I wanted little more than to be invisible, to be left alone to read during the one hour of solace I could eke out each hellish day. To be able to disappear inside of the horror novels that I consumed so voraciously. I’d made B.‘s acquaintance in home economics, when we’d been assigned pancake-making duties together. I was awkward and polite. She was lonely. Lonely and cracked somewhere deep inside.
“The thing is,” B. said, and her stare was a long steel fork that held me, a bleeding piece of meat, in place. “I’m a vampire. Like, a real vampire.”
I was the one she went to when the tattoo she gave herself became infected. She had kept her left hand wrapped in a bandage for a few days; when she peeled it back and showed me her handiwork, it broke my heart. B. had tried to give herself a pentagram tattoo – I say “tried” because out of some combination of ignorance and the misapplication of what little knowledge she did have, she had instead inked a small Star of David. The pentagram, for the uninitiated, looks like this:
…and is a widely used symbol in the occult. Satanists, Wiccans, and many others use some variant of this symbol, either two-points-up (“inverted”) or two-points-down.
This, on the other hand, is the Star of David:
…which has nothing whatsoever to do with witchcraft or Satanism. It’s the oldest and most widely-recognized symbol of Judaism. B., needless to say, did not intend to give herself the Star of David, and yet there it was, drilled into the pale flesh of her hand with black ink and a sewing needle. Her knowledge of religious symbolism may have been lacking, but I couldn’t fault her for cowardice or lack of commitment. By the time she showed it to me the skin had swollen taut and turned an angry, dangerous red. I was quiet but emphatic in my advice: she needed to go to the emergency room immediately. It was the right call, and she knew it. I think she just needed to hear someone else say it.
After that, it felt like I couldn’t shake her. It was a month or two later that she shared her secret with me. I thought she might have been joking, but I’m glad I didn’t force an awkward laugh. She wasn’t much for joking, and I realized moments after she told me that she wasn’t kidding, and either believed what she was telling me or – at the very least – thought I would believe her. I bumbled my way through some sort of tepid response; “well isn’t that interesting” being the upshot. I found a different place to read, even more secluded than the library, and I didn’t see much of B. after that. I hope things worked out for the best for her, but my hope is tempered by the knowledge that her life sprang from a particularly rocky patch of ground and was watered by the herbicide of poverty beneath the burning, punishing wormwood sun of suburban despair. Star of David or pentagram, B.’s attempt to mark herself as different was unnecessary in a place where difference was viciously focused upon. There weren’t a lot of Jews where I grew up; there weren’t a lot of Wiccans or Satanists, either. If I could say anything to B. – if I could re-live that moment – I would tell her that it doesn’t matter which kind of stars illuminate the darkness of our lives. Only that they do.
Horror fandom has a way of connecting people who might otherwise have a hard time fitting in; misfits, dissenters, morbid dreamers, and those who have lived through crucibles of pain that would kill a normal human. We should embrace a sort of cemetery solidarity, a comradeship of outcasts and contemplators of darkness. In the darkness that permeates life sometimes, perhaps we can be light – stars in the night, if you will – for each other.
Editor’s note: As a Jew, I am always flabbergasted by the amount of times people connect the Star of David with Satanism and Witchcraft.